Musically, Marvel has been all over the place. They have failed to keep a sonic identity for any of their franchises. Iron Man was a bold experiment from Ramin Djawadi that paid off. A defining rock-based score that embodied the character. However, it was met with criticism so Marvel dumped Djawadi and therefore lost Iron Man's sonic identity to a mediocre John Debney score. Thor featured what I feel is the best score from any Marvel film. Patrick Doyle created such a lush and grand feel plus it's so emotionally enthralling. However since Marvel and Kenneth Branagh parted ways that means the chance of Doyle returning is slim. Silvestri is an iconic composer with credits like Forrest Gump and Back To The Future. Some argue he only does his best work with Robert Zemeckis (listen to The Mexican and Mouse Hunt and you'll disagree), but he managed a serviceable score to Captain America. It wasn't bold, and it definitely took inspiration from Michael Giacchino's Medal Of Honor but it worked. Marvel decided to create some continuity and keep Silvestri for The Avengers. The result is a strong score that plays it extremely safe.
On its own the score is an expertly executed old fashioned adventure score, and maybe that's why it was so lost within the CGI chaos. In the film the music finds a hard time trying to breathe and in the end is suffocated by the action overload of the final act. The theme isn't bold enough to burst through the noise, and it seems as if the music was an afterthought to the filmmakers. You can tell when action is molded around music and when it isn't, and with The Avengers it clearly wasn't. There's no building; no emotional payoff. SPOILER ALERT: When Iron Man decides to sacrifice himself and carry the nuke into the porthole can you remember the music? Can you pinpoint in your mind when The Avengers theme boldly appeared for a spine tingling moment of awe? I can't. But say Transformers, The Dark Knight or Iron Man and I can close my eyes and immediately feel it. I can hear the music playing when Bumblebee is trapped in the LA river or when the Autobots arrive to Earth. I can hear the guitars riffing as Iron Man flies for the first time. When Batman rides off while Gordon gives his speech I can hear the score in my head building to an eye watering climax. That's what I wanted from The Avengers, and unfortunately I couldn't find it. This was indeed a challenging film given all the characters, but a stronger unified theme was definitely needed. As much as I love Alan Silvestri I can't help but hear The Mummy Returns when I hear his Avengers theme as well. It's very similar except The Mummy Returns is Alan Silvestri firing on all cylinders. Again, this is a good score. Alan Silvestri is one of the greatest composers of our time, and it baffles me why his score wasn't the centerpiece of this film.
Get this CD from Intrada (don't settle for the digital which has less music). The score breaths a lot more freely outside of the film, but it's still evident that Silvestri had to tone it down to make sure all of Joss Whedon's punchlines and one-liners were heard loud and clear. You won't get any spine tingles or hair raising from this score, which is a shame. I think Captain America is better than his effort here, because he was able to be a bit bolder there. If Marvel wants a great score like Thor again they're gonna need to get a director who knows how to work with a composer like Branagh does. Action films need to have the score as the center piece. Look at Danny Elfman in Spider-Man 1 & 2. Look at John Williams with Superman. The Avengers deserved a better score, and I know Silvestri is capable of it. But unfortunately one of our most beloved composers was buried underneath an already packed to the brim film, and the sad part is that nobody seemed to notice.